See here now
Peter Simon's camera captures the best and worst of the Baby Boom generation
by Harvey Wasserman
A picture may be worth a thousand words. But great ones are worth millions, which puts Peter Simon¹s wonderful new autobiographical photo book on a
whole new level.
Simon is a brilliant still camera devotee whose work captures with unique power and grace the best and worst times of the Baby Boom generation to date. The one question left open by I and Eye: Pictures of My Generation, his surprisingly thorough compilation, is: What could possibly come next?
Son of a publishing scion (Simon & Schuster) and brother to rock star Carly Simon, Peter had the good fortune to grow up with a love of great music and
photography. His father was both a publishing genius and a frustrated concert pianist. His mother, a strikingly beautiful activist and matriarch, guided her son and three daughters friends elite.
A born baseball fanatic, Simon had soul enough to avoid becoming a Yankees fan. His parents chose instead the friendship of the great Brooklyn Dodger
Jackie Robinson, and helped him crack the lily-white suburbs of Connecticut as surely as he had integrated major league baseball.
Meanwhile Simon grew up photographing all around him, and got damn good at it. When his college days at Boston University led him inevitably to the movements for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, he captured some of their most poignant and powerful moments on film. He was present for the creation of the legendary anti-war Liberation News Service, as well as for the major marches that helped shape an unprecedented social upheaval.
He then followed the generational flow to the rural countryside, co-founding an organic farm in southern Vermont. While Simon's prose narrative of the
³hippie commune experience² walks a fine line between the personal and the generational, his photos are striking and poignant. His avid pursuit of nudism as both an ideology and a photographic focus are a tribute both to our times and our youth. Yes, people really did look that good back then.
Simon¹s extraordinary life then took him to, of all places, Jamaica, and reggae music. With rock writer Stephen Davis, Simon became one of the early
advocates of the revolutionary jah beat. Simon and Davis helped thrust the power and politics of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and a legendary crew of
spliff-powered island musicians into the global limelight. Simon's early photographs and friendly but often compelling narrative provide a unique
portrait of how a musical idiom can suddenly hit a certain chemistry and, at a magical critical mass, change the world.
Likewise, Simon found his way into the hippie mainstream¹s spiritual quests of the 1970s, riding the acid/omming wave created by Timothy Leary and Ram
Dass (aka Richard Alpert), the renegade Harvard psychologists who turned on, tuned in and dropped a whole cohort of Baby Boomers into Eastern religion.
Dass, whose Be Here Now became a hippie non-Bible of sorts, is still at it, and the photos of him are endearing and amusing.
Simon also managed to hook up with the Grateful Dead and to the skyrocketing careers of his sister, Carly, and her husband James Taylor, providing us with visuals that capture them all at their best. He chronicled the
legendary Musicians United for Safe Energy concerts at Madison Square Garden in 1979, the ultimate musical protest events against nuclear power following
the accident at Three Mile Island. The ³family portraits² of Carly Simon, Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, CSN, Bruce Springsteen and other stars that made MUSE
both a platinum best-seller and a political coup are worth the price of
By way of disclosure: As a co-organizer of those MUSE concerts, a picture of yours truly appears in the midst of all that. Peter Simon¹s been a close friend since 1967, so his photos and narrative have a personal resonance for me.
One of the pleasures of knowing him over the years has been watching his talent deepen, through his photographs and his writing. Any compilation with
so many stellar portraits of the movers and shakers that changed our world, and so much of the history that has brought us to where we are today, has to
have broad appeal.
Simon ends his book with some stunning shots of Martha¹s Vineyard. Like the gorgeous island where he now lives and works, Simon¹s I and Eye is a ttreasure to behold, for spirit, mind and eye.
I and Eye: Pictures of My Generation
by Peter Simon
January 31, 2002